More than 200,000 people have signed a Rotherham mum’s petition calling for rapists to be denied access to children conceived in sex attacks.
Sammy Woodhouse, who is one of the survivors of the child sexual exploitation scandal in Rotherham, gave birth to a child conceived through rape and launched the petition when her attacker was given the chance to have a say in her son’s future.
Arshid Hussain - the ringleader of a notorious child abuse gang who was jailed for 35 years in 2016 - was contacted by Rotherham Council about care proceedings heard last year.
Sammy, who was 15 when she became pregnant, claims the council offered her attacker the right to ‘apply for parental rights’ for her son, including access.
She was one of 1,400 victims of child sexual exploitation identified in an independent report which found that men of predominantly Pakistani heritage preyed on vulnerable young girls between 1997 and 2013 while those in authority failed to act.
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Sammy’s petition reads: “I was a victim of emotional and sexual abuse as a child, as part of the Rotherham abuse scandal. I decided to speak out to help expose what was happening to me and 1,400 others children who were abused and failed.
“After rebuilding my life, I was made to relive the trauma again last year when the courts said my abuser Hussain could seek visits with my son.
“Just two years ago Hussain was found guilty of 23 child sex offences and is currently serving 35 years in prison. How could the courts not see he is a danger to me and my child? I can’t bear to think of him near our family.
“That’s why I’m calling for a change in the law, a simple amendment to the Children’s Act 1989 that would ban any male with a child conceived by rape from applying for access/rights.
“I’m not the only one this has happened to. Rape victims like me around the UK are having to share access of their children with the men that raped them. Some women are even having their children removed and custody given to the rapists. This is putting children and women at risk and is extremely distressing.”
Rotherham Council said it is reviewing the case and seeking clarity on procedural guidelines for legal proceedings involving children conceived by rapists.
A spokesman said: "Disclosures in relation to proceedings in the family court have understandably caused widespread concern and upset.
"As the public would expect, we have already begun to review the specifics of the case.
"As we have said previously we are not able to comment publicly on those specifics. However, we must be clear that at no stage has it been the intention of the council to put any child at risk, or to allow any convicted child sexual exploitation offender to have care of any child.
"It is imperative that clarity is realised as soon as possible, not just for Rotherham, but to ensure that other councils across the country who may face similar issues are able to act with certainty and no more survivors of abuse have to experience further trauma."
A Ministry of Justice statement: "This is obviously a very distressing incident and the relevant departments and local authority will work urgently to understand and address the failings in this case.
"Local authorities can apply to courts to request permission not to notify parents without parental responsibility about care proceedings, and courts should consider the potential harm to the child and mother when making this decision."